Interviewee: Rubye Bowles Bryson
Interviewer: Jane Abernathy Plyler
Dates: October 18 and 19, 1979
Location: Waynesville, NC
Rubye Bowles was born in 1913. She was raised in Statesville, North Carolina, received a teaching certificate from Mitchell College, and trained as a nurse at the Nashville General Hospital School. After some work at a university hospital and as an operating room nurse in Haywood County, she took courses in public health from William and Mary. She worked as a supervisor of nurses at Cleveland County Health Department for several years. Then, in 1941, her marriage to Howard Bryson spurred her return to Haywood County, where she worked as a public health nurse until her retirement in 1977. For many years, Bryson was the only nurse at Haywood County Health Department; later, she supervised the other public health nurses. She helped to initiate prenatal health and planned parenthood clinics in the area as well as important mental health services, and she played an important role in the construction of a new health department. Her model for preschool screening clinics became a model for programs in other areas. She became president of the Western North Carolina Public Health Association and, in 1975, received the Margaret B. Dolan Award for Excellence in Public Health. Her community involvement was extensive and included work with the Civil Air Patrol, membership in the Waynesville Business and Professional Womenâs Club, and, finally, election to the Board of County Commissioners.
In the interview, Bryson discusses aspects of child health and health education, such as tonsillectomy clinics, school health screenings, immunizations and parental resistance to them, and âLittle Jack Shows,â puppet shows that conveyed public health information. Bryson describes quarantine processes and tuberculosis sanatoriums as well as treatments for venereal disease. She talks about oral health programs and recounts the growth of public programs for mental health. Bryson speaks in detail about creating a rapport with her patients; she also discusses her personal life and the ways in which she balanced it with her career. She describes the identities and practices of midwives early in her career, midwife education and regulation, and her observations of folk medicine. She relates stories of local resistance to as well as cooperation with public health programs. She recounts the building of a new health department and describes other highlights of her work.